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Bordeaux Diaries: First fortnight

The first two weeks of  my postdoc here have been excellent, it feels so great to be back as part of an institution, and I'm starting to feel at home in France, despite also missing my family back home. I've been welcomed at the PACEA lab, and the University admin staff I've dealt with so far have also been extremely helpful to me. There's actually hardly anyone about in the lab right now as most people are off on fieldwork (in fact my next post is about a visit I made to one of the digs), so it's been a little weird to start a new job, and spend most of the time alone. But it does mean I can focus on catching up on writing and doing more reading before I too head off to the fieldwork region next week. Here's a few bits and pieces to show what my first fortnight has involved.

Here's my trusty bicycle outside my lab building, just across from the Francois Bordes tram stop (still love that!). The room I'm working in, actually Jean-Paul's office, is up on 3rd floor- when I arrive hot from cycling with my laptop and panniers to carry, I'm very glad there is a lift! There are flocks of swifts that swoop right past the front of this building all day, and kestrels across the tram lines, which is rather splendid too.

Department noticeboard- PACEA stands for De La Prehistoire a l'Actuel: Culture, Environnement & Anthropologie: From Prehistory to the Present, Culture, Environment and Anthropology. You can read about the lab at the website English version here. Just one thing to note about that photo: I believe that the poster on the right with a big handaxe from Caune l'Arago is actual size (33 cm)!

This is the lovely library, filled with a plethora of Palaeolithic publications. It's hard to explain how this makes my brain drool after being away from institutional access for so long after my PhD. It's been possible to get online journal articles thanks to people helping me out, but I missed books and non-online articles- not anymore!

Not being a faunal (animal) expert, I can't be totally sure, but I think this is a cave bear skull- there's a whole case of the right outside my office door, of all different sizes, with their distinctive domed skulls. And teeth. Massive teeth.

I've had requests for photos of La Vie Francaise that I'm enjoying, so here is my local bakery, literally round the corner from my apartment. I pop in most mornings for a fresh chocolatine, and sometimes again on the way home (as here) for bread or a little treat after a long day. It's just a corner bakery, nothing special, yet I can't get over the quality of the bread, plus the amazing range of beautiful sweet desserts. It's clearly my duty to try as many as possible on behalf of all you guys who can't be here... and I've had so far, raspberry and strawberry tarts, a "flan", like a big set custard pie, an eclair and most recently a decadent strawberry mousse creation, which is below.

A couple of weekends ago the weather really picked up from being a bit wet to very warm. I was also feeling the need to get out and have a bit of nature and birding action, so I checked the map and as it turns out, just a ten minute cycle from me is a huge wood, the 38 hectare Bois du Burck. On the way there the route goes past some vineyards and fields, which were really lovely. And the forest itself is amazing, a mix of huge scots pines and oak, with a cycle path all round the outside, and a maze of little tracks going off into the undergrowth. As I got there just after 1 in the afternoon, at first there weren't a lot of birds about because it was still hot. But this meant that I could enjoy ambling through the trees, breathing in the hot pine scent that is so reminiscent to me of holidays in France with my family.

I did end up seeing bird when it cooled down a little: a group of feisty little wrens scolding me as I passed them, flicking their stumpy little tails and also a greedy and demanding robin fledgling following its parent around, shouting for more tasty caterpillars which it got.

One of the main cycle paths through the middle of the woods. There were so many hoverflies about you could hear a constant humming sound.

And finally this is some wild oregano/marjoram I found growing along the verge on the cycle route back to my apartment; this is something I've noticed, there seem to be a lot of wildflowers about, even the University campus lets the grass grow long between the buildings. Which I suppose explains the kestrels!
I'll be leaving Bordeaux very soon for 6 weeks when I go out to the field study region in the Massif Central. I'm obviously really keen to get started on the archaeology, but I'm also really excited to see the landscapes there, and discover the wildlife too. My top birding tick would be a lammergeier (amazing type of vulture), which is in fact one of the species that Neandertals are known to have exploited, something I've written about here, and Clive Finlayson, who works on the incredible Gibraltar sites and has studied their use of birds, writes about here; he's also a fellow Bloomsbury author, who takes incredible photos of birds, and has started his own blog which you should check out.

Ok, so the next instalment of postdoc news will probably be coming from the field region once I've arrived and settled in. In the meantime, the post following this one is all about the amazing visit I had to a world famous Neandertal site, where I got to dig some incredibly rich and important deposits... stay tuned!


Ian Parry said…
Any down side to all this ??? Co it all seems really good.
Hi Ian,

Thank for commenting- I think if I could change something it would be to turn the hear down just few degrees. 33/34 degrees in the office is just a bit too much, and makes me worry about my laptop!

Oh yes, and I'd get my husband over now rather than having to wait another 6 weeks :-)

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